Being so close to graduating grad school (yay!) has, unfortunately, meant having less time for cooking. This semester of school, I’ve had to be extra resourceful with meal planning since there are days when I leave for school early in the morning and have to pack my lunch, dinner and snacks in between. And I’ll often have to cook once or twice to get me through the entire week. This might be the norm for some people, but it’s definitely been a challenge for me. Don’t get me wrong…I love planning out my meals, thinking about what’ll be for lunch and what healthy and unhealthy snacks I’ll have (I bring both…typically some fruit, nuts, a bar, some cake that I’ve baked, a bag of kettle cooked chips–my greatest weakness!) but sometimes I just want to give up packing my meals and buy my lunch/dinner/snacks instead. Of course, that’s when I start hearing my mother’s voice in my head “9 dollars for a sandwich?? I can make dinner for a family with that!”
So, I wanted to share a couple of really easy, delicious and healthy salads that have helped me get through the last few months. I also love bringing soup, but I’ll save some of those recipes for another day. The first, is a chickpea salad with avocado, corn and tomatoes and a lime vinaigrette. It is truly easy and satisfying, perfect for when you get home at 9pm and have to think on your feet to make lunch for the next few days. The second, a lentil salad, is a little more complicated (only because it requires you to turn on your stove and do some vegetable prep), but still very simple and so good. It’s been a reliable recipe for me for the last couple years and is, of course, from Ina Garten and while she served it alongside salmon for a proper meal, I think it’s delicious at room temperature all by itself.
Chickpea salad with lime vinaigrette (Serves 3-4)
1 (15.5 oz) can chickpeas, drained
1 avocado, cubed
1/2 (15 oz) can kernel corn, drained
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 medium red onion, diced small
1 lime, juiced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp chili powder
salt & pepper, to taste
- Combine the chickpeas, avocado, corn, tomatoes and red onion.
- Make dressing. Combine the lime juice, oil, garlic and chili powder. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
- Pour dressing over the vegetables, toss to combine. Taste to adjust seasoning.
Notes: This is definitely one of those salads that gets more flavorful as it sits, so it’s perfect as a make-ahead. If you like spice, it would be great with some chopped jalapeño for extra oomph, and maybe some chopped scallions and cilantro for an herby kick.
Lentil salad (Serves 4-6, adapted from Ina Garten)
1 leek, sliced thin
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup lentils*, rinsed
1 medium onion (or 1/2 large onion), peeled
6 whole cloves
1 tsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for cooking
4 tsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
- Stick 6 whole cloves into the peeled onion.
- Combine the onion stuck with cloves, lentils, and the turnip with 4 cups of water in a pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes, or until just tender. Drain, discarding the onion and the turnip.
- Meanwhile, over medium-low heat, sauté the leek and carrots in some oil until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Set aside.
- Off the heat, combine the lentils with the leek and carrot mixture. Add in the pat of butter and stir, allowing to melt into lentil mixture.
- Make dressing. Combine 1/4 cup olive oil, dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, salt & pepper.
- Add dressing to the lentil mixture. Adjust seasoning to taste.
*Ina Garten’s original recipe calls for French lentils, but I just always have regular brown lentils around the house. The recipe would probably be even better with the French lentils, but if you don’t have them, I wouldn’t go crazy trying to find them. Brown lentils, which are more widely available, will do great in this recipe and will be easier on your wallet.
**I’ve forgotten to add the turnip on a couple of occasions and have not been able to taste any significant difference.